Raising awareness is seen as the key to preventing child abuse


The silence was disturbing.

As the state was mired in the pandemic, the number of calls reporting suspected cases of child abuse plummeted.

Now they are going up.

“Initially, we saw a rapid decline because the kids weren’t in school and we didn’t have our eyes on (them),” said Angela Kramp, child welfare administrator for the West-Central Illinois for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. .

Increased calls do not necessarily mean increased abuse. A hotline used to report suspected abuse has been overhauled — callers often left a message, but calls are now answered 99% of the time, Kramp said. This could contribute to this, as suspected cases are reported and treated more quickly.

But any number of reports is too many, especially for Kramp and those investigating the reports, even during the pandemic.

“We never stopped seeing the kids,” she said.

“The past two years have been extremely difficult for all of us. As our schools, businesses, stores and restaurants closed, reduced hours or moved away, the support services we provided to families in crisis became even more important as parents lost their jobs, children faced disruptions to a stable schedule and the pandemic took a heavy toll on the mental health of so many families,” said Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc D. Smith. “Through it all, we have never deviated from our mission to strengthen families and keep children safe.

When a call is made and an investigation is opened, an investigator will check the background and look for bruises in the usual places for children.

“Cuts and scrapes on the forehead or shins, where (the skin) is close to the bone, are normal. Children learning to walk fall and bump,” Kramp said. “It’s when you see bruises on the buttocks or behind the legs, because you really have to work to make a bruise” there.

Signs that someone might abuse a child:

  • They seem indifferent to the welfare of the child
  • They deny problems at school or at home and blame the child for causing trouble
  • They see the child as worthless or a burden
  • They avoid discussing a child’s injuries or giving contradictory explanations about them
  • They abuse alcohol, drugs or both
  • They seem isolated from other parents or relatives
  • They use harsh, physical discipline or have the guards use it on their children
  • They frequently blame, belittle or insult a child

Call the 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline at 800-252-2873 if you suspect a child has been harmed or is at risk of harm from abuse or neglect. If you think a child is in immediate danger, call 911 first.

The Ministry of Children and Family Services has created the theme Growing Better Together for April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

With schools resuming, the focus is on how to process cases more quickly and ensure children have a safe place to go – and people are aware of the warning signs.

“Our world has changed. Everyone talks about getting back to normal, but the truth is that we have a new normal. This new normal involves realizing that things can change in an instant, understanding that we have a responsibility to protect each other and know that we’re all in this together,” said Denise McCaffrey, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Illinois. “Preventing child abuse needs to be part of this new normal. April is the perfect time to spread the message that all children deserve a good childhood, and we all have a role to play in keeping children safe.

The Crisis Center Foundation in west-central Illinois has several tips on what to do if someone witnesses a violent situation in public. One suggestion is to strike up a conversation directly with the adult to distract the child, perhaps with a comment like, “She seems to be testing your patience. My kid gets mad like that sometimes too…kids can really carry you. Is there anything I can do to help you? »

Other ways could be to speak directly to the child or give him a compliment.

If a child is in danger, such as being alone in a grocery store, it is suggested that you stay close to the child until a parent is located. If a child is in immediate danger, the police should be called.

Jacksonville-based Midwest Youth Services, which works with families to divert children from the juvenile justice system and to restore and strengthen family relationships, is also doing its part to promote the prevention of child abuse.

“We are a preventative measure,” said Haley Hopkins, youth community services coordinator. “We work with our young people and do a trauma test for young people.”

The test looks at the dynamics of a family, if there is violence, if the parents are in prison, any drug addiction or sexual abuse. They also look to see if the children have experienced a traumatic event such as a fire or a tornado.

Midwest Youth Services works closely with the Department of Child and Family Services and will report anything it believes warrants investigation.

The agency is holding a parade Saturday in Jacksonville to promote child abuse prevention and awareness. Among the floats there will be 774 windmills.

“Windmills for prevention – it shows the innocence of childhood,” Hopkins said.

Each of the 774 windmills represents an abuse call made in 2021. But that’s not the full picture.

“A call could mean there are three kids in the house,” Hopkins said.


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